ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Toronto Blue Jays are on the verge of their best road trip to Tampa Bay in years.
Mark Buehrle allowed four hits over 8 2-3 innings, Jose Bautista homered twice, and the Blue Jays beat the Rays 3-0 on Wednesday night.
With a victory in Thursday night’s game, Toronto would stop a streak of 20 consecutive winless road series against the Rays. The Blue Jays, who have won two of three against the Rays to start a four-game set, haven’t won a series at Tampa Bay since April 2007. Of the 20 series, the Blue Jays have lost 19 and split one.
“Obviously, it hasn’t been a good place for this team,” Buehrle said. “Hopefully come out and take this series tomorrow and get off to an even better start.”
Buehrle (1-0) struck out 11 and walked one.
“It was a tremendous game for him,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “A great effort, I don’t know how else to describe it.”
It was just the second career double-digit strikeout games in 430 major league starts for Buehrle. The other was a 12-strikeout game on April 16, 2005, against Seattle, while with the Chicago White Sox.
“That ball was running, ducking, and darting,” Gibbons said.
Sergio Santos entered after Ben Zobrist had a two-out single off Buehrle in the ninth and walked Evan Longoria. Brett Cecil then struck out pinch-hitter Matt Joyce for his first save.
Bautista put the Blue Jays ahead 1-0 on his first homer of the season, a solo shot off Matt Moore (0-1) in the fourth. Dioner Navarro made it 2-0 later in the inning with an RBI single.
Toronto went up 3-0 on Bautista’s second homer, a towering solo drive to left off Josh Lueke during the seventh. It was the slugger’s 22nd multihomer game.
“For the most part their offence was centred around one guy. He can do that kind of stuff,” Rays manager Joe Maddon.
Moore gave up two runs, six hits and three walks in 5 2-3 innings.
The Blue Jays had runners on first and second with two outs in the first when Longoria got a forceout at third after leaping to catch Navarro’s grounder that went airborne after hitting the base.
Toronto third baseman Brett Lawrie saved a run in the fifth when he made a leaping catch on Sean Rodriguez’s liner with a runner on a second.
“Our defence was amazing,” Buehrle said. “If they don’t make some of those plays, I’m not out there probably past the sixth inning. It was a perfect storm. Everything worked out.”
Notes: Tampa Bay RHP Chris Archer and Blue Jays RHP Brandon Morrow are Thursday’s scheduled starters. Archer and the Rays agreed to a $25.5 million, six-year deal on Wednesday. The contract includes club options for 2020 and 2021 that could raise the value to $43.75 million. … Blue Jays SS Jose Reyes (mild left hamstring inflammation) is getting treatment and feeling better. He hopes to return in a couple weeks. … Toronto closer Casey Janssen, on the 15-day disabled list due to a strain in his left abdominal area and lower back, threw in the outfield. … Rays OF David DeJesus (bruised right foot) was out of the lineup for the second straight game and is day to day. … Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (back tightness) had a bullpen session. … Toronto agreed to a minor league contract with INF Juan Francisco.